Presidential bios have resonance in the press -- three historians cited in NRO article on presidency





...No man had a greater influence on the presidency than its original occupant. “The office of the presidency was not only forged by George Washington,” says historian Ron Chernow, who recently published a one-volume biography of the first president. “One can make the argument that the office was forged for George Washington.” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, most delegates assumed he would be the first executive, and they outlined the president’s responsibilities in the Constitution with him in mind — that is to say, rather vaguely. Unlike the lengthy Article I, which enumerates the legislature’s tasks, Article II is short and vague....

Thomas Jefferson, however, gave the office much more of a populist flavor, says historian Gordon Wood. “He saw himself as speaking for the people; I don’t think Washington saw it that way at all,” Wood observes. Unlike Washington, who held weekly levees reminiscent of those held by European courts, “Jefferson really threw all that out and opened himself to the people” — sometimes answering the White House’s door in his slippers....

By saving the American experiment, Lincoln allowed a future president, Theodore Roosevelt, to turn an agrarian republic into a world power. “Roosevelt made the presidency into the office of an international statesman,” says historian Edmund Morris, who recently released the final installment of his three-volume biography of the 26th president.

Roosevelt succeeded in this effort largely because of his cosmopolitan personality. He had four grand tours of Europe before serving as president, spoke German and French fluently, and boasted an enormous range of international acquaintances. “The climax of his presidency was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, which he got for mediating the end of the Russo–Japanese war,” Morris notes. “To date, he’s the only president who’s ever been asked to mediate a foreign war.”...

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network